Video: The Civil Rights Lawyer Whose Clients Are Orcas, Monkeys, and Bears

For Immediate Release:
November 27, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

  • When he argued that the wild-caught orcas at SeaWorld deserved their freedom under the 13th Amendment, the legal world took notice.
  • When he sued for an Indonesian monkey to own the copyright of the selfie that the animal took, the whole world watched—and photographers started making donations to help protect the monkeys’ habitat.
  • When his team secured the release of more than 70 bears from dilapidated roadside zoos, the animals got a new lease on life.

This is just a short list of some of the landmark legal cases brought by (and legal work done by) Chantilly, Virginia, native Jeff Kerr—and in a new PETA video, he shares his inspiration for defending the marginalized: barrier-breaking civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall, whom Kerr considered his hero as early as at the age of 12.

“My litigation mentor told me something about those famous battles for human civil rights during the 1960s and ’70s,” says Kerr. “He said that in cases that push the boundaries of the law, you lose, you lose, you lose … and then you win. Animal rights is the next frontier of civil rights. And so we keep pushing, we keep fighting, and I promise you, one day, we will win.”

His video is included in a new 10-part documentary series titled, “PETA Reveals: Everybody’s Got a Story,” which highlights 10 individuals’ “Clark Kent moments”—times when a life-changing experience or personal revelation awakened their sense of social justice and triggered their evolution into activists. In other videos in the series, one woman shares her realization that she couldn’t be a cheese-eating feminist and one man describes his experience with post-traumatic stress after documenting abuse in the wool industry.

The full series from PETA—whose motto is “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—is available here.

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind